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Is Antonio Conte the Right Man for Chelsea?

April 15, 2016

- Grant Whittington

In what is surely a new experience for the current generation of Chelsea fans, this season appears to be petering out into nothingness. Sure to be trophyless and almost certain to end without Champions League football, the Blues have only an outside chance of scraping into the Europa League (although it is doubtful that this is something that motivates a stellar playing cast). Instead, all that remains is for Chelsea’s players to play for pride and potentially impress incoming Italian manager Antonio Conte.

Is Conte the right man for the Blues?

The Italian national manager will take the helm at Stamford Bridge in the summer, after his side’s Euro 2016 run is concluded. His arrival has been largely welcomed by fans and pundits, although there have been some words of warning that will sound a note of caution among the playing staff. Conte is renowned as a tough disciplinarian with exceptionally high standards, for example, with this and his outspoken, occasionally abrasive nature having drawn comparisons with Sir Alex Ferguson and former Blues boss Jose Mourinho.

Yes, that is the same Jose Mourinho was lost his job at the Bridge in December after a run of poor form, a plethora of players bust-ups, and the culmination of numerous failed relationships within the club. Ultimately, the combustible nature of the Portuguese manager simply overreached itself, making it impossible for him to win back the respect of his players and inspire an on-field turnaround. Conte clearly has the same brand of tenacity and purposeful man-management skills, although this level of influence over individual players can become negative over time.

Even if we place these concerns to one side, the question that remains is whether authoritarian figures such as Conte represent progressive managerial appointments in the modern game? This is particularly relevant in England, where the game is slightly more disciplined than the Italian iteration and players are increasingly rebellious in the face of a harsh regime. Combative and tough managers such as Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes seem increasingly out-of-place in the cash-rich, player dominant entity that is the EPL, for example, and Conte may have to adapt to achieve his aims.

The Future for the Blues

In many ways, Conte is an identikit Blues manager. Tough and uncompromising, he will rely on motivation and strong, traditional leadership to implement a percentage-based playing style driven by defensive organisation. He lacks Mourinho’s charm, however, meaning that players and fans will only warm to him for as long as he his winning games. If he struggles from the outset, he could join the ranks of failed, one-season managers under the rule of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Conte can at least negate this to some degree by bringing in some of his loyal Serie A players, however, while Chelsea fans will also be hopeful of seeing Juventus star Paul Pogba arrive at the Bridge. Either way, at Bethut we are sure that next season will be an explosive one that Chelsea fans will remember for good or for bad.

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